Guest Column: Glasnost (or ‘openness’) — a quality missing in District 205, part 2

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a two-part column. The first part appeared in the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2013, issue.

By Jane Hayes

Following are more insights from Mara Stafets, revered English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher from District 205 and Conklin Elementary School, regarding education in America and the need to change strategies for effective teaching. “Glasnost” is a Russian word meaning openness.

Mara brought her two children to America 22 years ago for advantages she expected from a democratic society. Having lived under totalitarianism and the Communist regime in Russia, she wanted the best for her own children, which she imagined would be possible in America.

When she came here, she had to return to school to qualify as an ESL teacher, so she knows firsthand the trials and joys of coping with the American system of education. She would have continued teaching until the demands became too restrictive for positive growth for her students and families. Some families have removed their children from the system because of current autocratic teaching techniques imposed on teachers. Common Core Standards, No Child Left Behind and excessive testing have strangled the lifeblood from the educational process.

Today, teachers are not trusted in what they do, endangering the whole educational process,” Stafets said. “The authority of teachers has been taken away. Their leadership and common sense have been questioned, and they are constantly under review and forced to teach in fearful situations. Enslaved teachers are constantly threatened with insubordination; such fear is counterproductive to educating smart and critical thinking students who could be valuable assets to our society.

Lately, we have tossed out reading materials and successful strategies and wasted public monies by going from one extreme to another and not learning from past mistakes,” she added. “We have to be more balanced in our approach, using far more common sense in the education,” replied Mara as to how we can improve education. “Reality is shoved away because of some formal scheme from our leaders and does not work for every educational situation and the diverse needs of our students.”

In asking her about the extreme violence in America and Russia, she replied: “Social issues of violence are rampant in America and Russia. Who am I to judge if European societies are safer? They certainly have fewer guns there, forcing them to use words or fists to resolve conflicts.”

She also believes that if a human being sees something wrong, he or she needs to speak up and do something about it. (Perhaps that quality of critical thought and expression has caused her untimely retirement from the district.)

People need to care more about their kids and not their pocket books,” she said. “Education adds human value to society and should not be judged as a business enterprise.

While America was once great because of hard work, initiatives in public education, a free spirit in undertakings, and plain common sense, we can no longer live by bureaucratic and meaningless formulas and slogans imposed on us by non-educators. Unfortunately, the privatization of public education (business and special interests prevailing for profit-ended results) is proving to be the worst form of capitalism yet! How do we, as teachers, stop this madness?” queried Mara.

Mara would like to visit Machu Picchu in Peru and go to Africa in the future. Now, she is off to visit Latvia, Russia, and Portugal. We can only hope she returns to Rockford to contribute her vast knowledge and common-sense solutions to American education.

Dr. Stafets understands the concept of Glasnost, being honest and open in communicating to all stakeholders, is paramount in promoting a democratic progressive school system that contributes to society. Without it, we all fail!

Jane Hayes is a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment.

From the Oct. 9-15, 2013, issue

3 thoughts on “Guest Column: Glasnost (or ‘openness’) — a quality missing in District 205, part 2

  • Oct 12, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Openness is great. That’s all good and fine. I would actually, however, be more specific.

    What’s missing in the RPS 205 is transparency.

    What is your child doing for homework? What classes is your child taking? What are your child’s weaknesses in academia?

    And then, of course, the same is to be said about the parents. And I will agree with Dr. Stafets that a lot of parents suck. Truancy and getting fined as an adult became a more serious issue over the 2000s: Neglectful parents.

    It sickens me when I find that parents are being neglectful. But if you look at statistics, I believe it’s about 50% of children (rockford, il) are given to their grandparents. I think that is from I read it somewhere, and it’s out there. Wow..

    I’ll tell you something, though. When I was in Chicago, IL and building myself up as a person, people did not care for the ideas of marriage and children as much as people in Rockford, IL. People were much more focused on self-development.

    And with that, there is that same issue coming around again: People who fail to recognize to focus on themselves, thus enabling themselves to help their children become independent as adults. Sure, you can take the legal route, not give your kid your skills, knowledge, and abilities and kick the kid out of the door at age 18… but that seems extremely immoral. Well done, you procreated, managed to not have your child taken away from you, and have found a way to separate yourself from your child.

    But yes, it works both ways: The educational system and the parents. The parents ideally would be spending more time with their children. In this kind of economy and society, however, there are more parents moving toward tutoring services for their children and daycare, and all kinds of things.

    I’m a big supporter of the idea of after-school tutoring for students. However, kids might just as well lie to after-school workers. So, a systematic lesson plan that these after-school workers can access would help reduce any B.S. kid who didn’t do their homework. And yes, besides parents and the school system, there is still the kid.. The kid might lie to the parents; but the educational center will obviously notice that the kid did or did not put in the effort.

    As such, there needs to be TRANSPARENCY. Yeah, it would be great if the child was OPEN with you, but I doubt children really understand the importance of that: Some kids aren’t “there” yet.

    So, that’s my two cents: Transparency is a much more important issue.

  • Oct 12, 2013 at 3:04 am

    “‘…Unfortunately, the privatization of public education (business and special interests prevailing for profit-ended results) is proving to be the worst form of capitalism yet! How do we, as teachers, stop this madness?’ queried Mara.”

    Actually, that’s really easy. You develop an organization and you generate standardized tests. You make a business model based on someone proving their knowledge to take down a business model based on someone proving their knowledge. It’s really easy.

    For instance, there are various Governments and organizations that make tests to prove that you know a language. I was big into the Japanese language some time in the past. Japanese Language Proficiency Test, it was called.

    The general idea was for people to pass tests that proved they held knowledge of a language. It’s really cool stuff, too. Why take college classes on language when you can test out?

    And in a lot of ways, other technical fields are fields where people learn a certain language. Accounting, for example, is often called the language of business. And, yes, accounting does have the CPA exam… but you need academic credits for that… drat.

    So, there you go. The government has a tie to academia that supports its business model. But, nonetheless, if organizations get developed that allow people to prove a body of knowledge, then you’ve defeated a lot of the purpose of academia.

  • Oct 12, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Oh, and in relation to the CPA exam, you can take CLEP exams in order to score some of the relevant credits to take the CPA exam…

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